Special thanks to Steve Spencer of The Columbus Dispatch for use of his "Mount Buckmore" artwork.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring is the time when a young man's thoughts turn to practice (and Henton)


Res ThaSequel is new to Old Columbus Town and once saw Thad Matta at a Columbus Pizza Hut enjoying the lunch buffet. Matta refused him as a walk-on despite ThaSequel's assertion that "he was a five, but could play the two." This clearly makes him qualified to report on Ohio State.

As Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch reported, Antonio Henton (and to a lesser extent Joe Bauserman--though he apparently has a quick release) will use the spring practices in order to get a leg up before [the] Terrelle Pyror arrives at school ready to live up to his monstrous billing. Indeed, Henton, Buckeye City's favorite forgotten son, is in a dilly of a pickle as he must now decide between battling the much heralded Pryor at OSU or seek his fortunes elsewhere.

It is a decision with no easy (and certain) answer. Though a January 28 article posted by Our Honor Defend reported that Henton is happy and staying scarlet and gray, that article was published before well before Pryor signed with the Bucks.

On one hand, Pryor could bust (or get injured) and Henton could become the starter next season. On the other side, Henton might turn into Scott McMullen or Jonathon Moxon--a talented player whose career is almost entirely eclipsed (save for injury circumstances) by someone else. Additionally, if Henton does transfer, he must confront the guidelines set forth by the NCAA and get permission to leave and all that.

Despite the overwhelming odds against Henton and significant playing time, he can stay at Ohio State and still succeed. Going to a smaller school will be precarious at best and obligatory Short North prostitute jokes aside, if Henton has built a niche within OSU, it would be foolish to break that now. Competition will almost certainly exist at OSU or anywhere, if not with Pryor than some other recruit. Transferring does not necessarily mean instant success at a smaller school, case in point Louis Irizarry, the former troubled TE who went to Youngstown State after OSU and fizzled.

It could turn out, that Henton could impress in these next few practices and entrench himself as No. 2 behind Boeckman. Instead of a Boeckman throw and Pryor run platoon, Henton could displace Pryor talk. But there are other options beside QB--namely receiver--that Henton could do. Should Pryor become Troy Tebow, a man of Henton's talents would still be welcome and utilized.

If Henton becomes a career backup, then it might not be the end of the world. QB Matt Cassel sat behind Matt Leinart at USC. Currently, Cassel backs up Tom Brady. Now, this is a rare occasion, but an important precedent to show that life as a career backup can indeed become a career.

However, with all the emphasis being on football, remember that Henton is still a college student. Remember that when various fans say he's stupid for not transferring. Not too get too preachy, but perhaps Henton just likes it here. Being 6'2" his NFL prospects for quarterbacking are slim to nil (to say nothing of his talent, which has yet to even be tapped). He might as well enjoy his college life regardless of if his future lies in football or not.
Rather than eat fortune cookies and read Tarot cards, Henton should stick to the gridiron and focus on playing well. He has precious few opportunities to prove himself now before Pryor-mania, and he should concentrate on these practices and worry about the future later. If he plays well in spring, the rest will work itself out. High scouting marks do not mean success: remember that Justin Zwick was also hailed as the savior and Troy Smith a mere "athlete."

On a much sadder vein, the Dispatch also acknowledged that Buckeyes wideout Dan Potokar's cancer did not respond well to treatment. I met Potokar last year and found his smiling enthusiasm was instantly apparent and appreciated. Ohio State is lucky to have Potokar on the team, and I certainly hope the best for Potokar and those close to him.

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OMG! We luv U Jamar!

Jamar Butler, despite voicing his frustrations earlier this season, made his final walk to the Schott's locker room with a smile on his face.

Ok, more like a smirk.

Butler and the Bucks beat Dayton last night, advancing to the NIT semi-finals in NYC. Below is the post-game interview. After he is dismissed we are treated to one of the more endearing images of his prolific career: A cluster of fans in the otherwise empty stands give Butler a farewell cheer as the senior sheepishly tugs on the towel slung over his neck and amicably acknowledges the home crowd for the last time.

The undisputed leader of the basketball Bucks since Terence Dials left will be remembered for his receding hairline, multiple school records, prison tats, and, perhaps above all, enigmatic and humble demeanor. On a more existential level, Butler, recruited during his Mr. Basketball campaign and before Matta arrived, is a rare relic that links to the Jim O'Brien era. Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer writes:

The winningest player in Ohio State history, so famously grumpy after defeats, has been the con stant, the link from coach Jim O'Brien to coach Thad Matta, from center Terence Dials to center Kosta Koufos, from a 2005 postseason ban to the 2007 Final Four. Over four years, he has started 111 games with 15 other players, switched positions from point guard to shooting guard and back again, emerged as Ohio State's all-time leader in assists and 3-pointers, and made his name as a defender, distributor and scorer.

"We always felt like no matter who came or who went, he was always kind of the glue," said his mother, Nancy. "He was always a needed piece to the puzzle no matter what team it was."

Butler is the most unlikely soon-to-be OSU record book reference in recent memory. Though certainly a catch out of high school, he arrived on campus with a Brent Darby complex: thrown into the mix too soon; before loosing that freshman 15. His four year tenure, like that of classmate Matt Terwilliger, already sounds like a misprint in this age of one-and-dones. Butler's path into the annals of OSU legend seems even more round about when compared to that of NBA fast-trackers Daequan Cook and Mike Conley Jr., former teammates who's skill sets are similar to Butler's.

Conley, who inadvertently crashed Butler's coming out party last season, appeared to be the next fan favorite of the winter season. He was a bit undersized with some wrinkles to smooth out, soft-spoken and comfortable playing second fiddle to the big man down low. It could be argued that if Ron Lewis missed that epic three-pointer against Xavier to advance to the Sweet 16 last year, Conley would have never been considered a lottery pick and returned for at least one more season. But, as Gus Johnson can tell you, that shot was destined to fall just as Conley was destined for greener pastures.

All this is to say that Butler is a special player for the very reasons he is not an exceptional player (like Conley or sometimes Cook.) As the Matta recruiting machine gains momentum each season, devouring the top high school talent near and far, the Jamar Butler's of the game will be spit out and distributed to other sleeping giant programs in need of their services. He and his workman-like efforts will be fondly remembered, as he is emblematic of an already-dated aesthetic. If Greg Oden and the Thad Five built the towering framework for an era when Buckeye basketball will begin it's ascent to "powerhouse" status, then Jamar Butler laid the foundation.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

If spring predictions hold true, come December there's gonna be some fussin' and a-feudin' in Georgia (again)

College Football News, owned and operated by Scout.com, has long been my favorite of the myriad internet college football, uh, news websites. The staff seems genuinely passionate about the one sport that they tirelessly cover year-round while always making efforts towards non-partisanship and giving press to even the smallest D-1 programs.

Based on this flattery alone, one can only assume that their predictions carry the most weight and are always spot-on. In today's crystal ball: An Ohio State v. Florida rematch in the BCS title game.

Their Spring Preview began in late last month, highlighting the 40 Best Non-Conference Matchups (No. 1: OSU v. USC) and finished with their BCS predictions:

Rose: Wisconsin v. USC
Orange: BC v. Pitt. ( I know, right?)
Fiesta: Missouri v. BYU
Sugar: Georgia v. Oklahoma
BCS Champ.: OSU v. Florida

Last May, the wizards at CFN were a modest 4 of 10 when guessing who the BCS teams would be (like most, going with LSU in the title game.) If their guess that Georgia will be playing in one of the "other" statistically determined matchups holds true, then it's time to--at the very least-- rethink that New Years golf outing to Athens unless you want to run into this guy:

From the article:
College football fans outside of Columbus might welcome this matchup as much as a kick in the store, but it could happen even if they each have a loss.

Make no mistake about it, like it or not, Ohio State is the most talented team in America. With James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Alex Boone all putting off their millions for another year, arguably the best kicking game in the country, Beanie Wells running the ball, depth everywhere, and Terrelle Pryor providing a possible bolt of lightning here and there, it'll be a shocker if the Buckeyes don't roll through the regular season, and that includes road trips to USC, Wisconsin and Illinois. Even so, there will be a collective groan if they end up in Miami instead of Pasadena.

Most notable is their claim that even a one-loss Buckeye team could find their way back to the title game. Not only is this debatable, it's probably being debated at this very moment, in a dimly lit speak-easy somewhere between South Carolina and Alabama.

If Jan. 8, 2009 is too long to wait for another shot at the Gators, fret not, as an OSU v. Florida NIT Championship is looking more and more likely.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bucks set date with Flyers

To make up for all that missed time in the classroom over spring break, the Ohio State basketball team put on a clinic last night in St. John Arena, beating Cal 73-56.

The old field house was shaking on full tilt during the first half when Jamar Butler (right, v. UNC Ash.) hit 3 treys and the Bucks built a 12 point lead that would carry them the rest of the game. What's more, the team's defensive effort held the usually high-scoring Bears to their second-lowest point total of the season. Ryan Anderson, Cal's big answer who averages 21 pts/game, was regulated to 4-11 shooting and 11 pts.

All this begs the question: Is this silver medal tournament providing the low-stress atmosphere that this young team has searched for all season?

It would certainly seem so from the look and sound of last night's event, which rivaled the Springsteen concert as the best place for a 40-year-old in Levis and a red pullover to show his son some real history. Gabby Jay at Our Honor Defend spoke for all of us when asking if St. John was available for the Wednesday meeting with Dayton. The answer, unfortunately, is "no" and your guess is as good as mine as to what might be going on at S.J. that's more important (Uneducated guess: Cage fight or Jim O'Brien sleeps there.)

Concerning that delicious matchup with instate foe Dayton, it's hard to imagine a better scenerio for both teams--a scenario, I might add, that I foresaw in my NIT bracket that I submitted to Cuse Country. Enjoy the much deserved roasting they give me for picking almost every other game incorrectly. The OSU v. Dayton game will fairly crown the second best team in the Buckeye State this season (behind Xavier), considering Kent St. forfeited any hopes of that title last week.

Until then, we're left with the haunting and angry words of ThaSequal: Are the Bucks one step closer to salvaging this season?


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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Basketball 2007-08: Chernobyl or Mere Three Mile Island?



Res ThaSequel is a new contributor to the Old Columbus Town. He is the author of
The Dimitrious Stanley Story and still wears his 1999 Final Four gear without irony or fear of reprisals. You hear me, NCAA?

There is a simple answer to the question of if this year's installment of OSU Men's basketball was a disappointment.

The answer: yes.

While the squad undeniably lost a lot (I even find myself missing D-Cook's erratic play), they should have not been this bad. Two of the Thad Five returning was better than none, and Kosta Koufos was (is?) allegedly a lottery pick. Add in the steady play of Jamar Butler, the face of the basketball renaissance in Buckeye Town, and you have a team that looks intimidating--not Jennifer Aniston second season of Friends intimidating[ly hot]--more like a Courtney Cox.

The season started well enough (notwithstanding a loss to Findlay in preseason) where OSU beat the teams they should and played up to the likes of UNC and Butler. Then the team found out that Purdue is good, Iowa is tough on the road, and they lost to Minnesota for good measure. OSU got its groove back the last part of the season in defeating Purdue and MSU, but it was not enough.

There are simple reasons for Ohio State's bball downfall.

First, everyone except for Butler and Turner (and perhaps Kosta--he dominated at times) underachieved this season, and thus so did the team. For the first time in Matta's tenure, the team did not play up to its potential. In Matta's first couple years his squad's scrapped and made up for a lack of talent and Matt-fucking-Sylvester. Then came last year, where the team fought the best team this side of '92 Duke in the Finals. These teams played hard, whereas this year's squad did not have the same fight. Lighty and Hunter were supposed to be big and at times flashed brilliance (O-Hunt is still learning the game--its only his fifth year of playing organized ball) but then absolutely disappeared. Their paltry season averages (8.8 ppg and 3.6 rpg for Lighty and 9.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg for Hunter) partly tell the story, but the fact that Hunter went for 15 and 12 against Michigan the first time, and then 6 and 3 in the inglorious rematch are more revealing. They were as inconsistent as David Letterman or Michigan State football every year--you never know if its going to be really good or fucking awful.

Second, although I mentioned reasons earlier why OSU had good prospects for this season, the team did not blossom as Buckeye fans would have hoped. They were freshmen who played like freshmen. Diebler, who I want to call "The Faucet" because he can get hot or cold so quickly (mainly cold), never got that comfortable this year. Kosta progressed and regressed. He plays like a small forward trapped in a center's body. Turner, by far the team's most improved player, really came alive as a defender and scorer yet at times marred his game with bad passes and TOs. Main point, these guys are new to the NCAA game and Cbus, as usual, was expecting a lot.

Third, the deficiencies that have plagued Matta's teams hit this team hard. Namely, the team likes treys and not boards. Yes, I am glad that Kosta has a great shot. However, when you have four guys on the perimeter ready to jack it up at all times (including Terwiliger?!?!) that means rebounds are going to be in short supply. In 2005-06, the team took threes because it was three undersized guys and Matt-fucking-Sylvester, who will forever suck in my mind despite his big shots against Illinois and LSU, and Dials. They were a short bunch with only one real good post player. Now they have depth and good size and . . . still jacking up the threes. [Actually after watching the likes of Drake, who could have easily beaten Western 'Tucky if Kyle Korver's brother and co. drove to the hoop/went for easier points instead of jacking it from halfcourt every time, I think this is more a problem with college bball in general. Plenty of teams play ball like my friend does on NBA Live: launch threes regardless of the score.] Nevertheless, this hurt Ohio State. How else do you explain 7' Kosta and 6'9" Hunter and the rest getting out-rebounded by smaller teams?

But the sun has not set on OSU bball yet. Yes, they did not make the Dance but they are young and hopefully this can motivate them for next year (when B.J. Mullens comes to town). However, this year's squad still has a chance to please. And only an elusive National [Invitational Tournament] Championship will do.

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